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David Offit recently started working at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington – after making appearances at Facebook, on the Hill, and in the campaign world. He dreams of the day when we can roam the Smithsonians and local book stores once again. But for now, will have to settle for FaceTime dates with friends, monument walks, virtual museum tours, and horseradish covered matzvah?! Get to know David.
Allie: What brought you to the DC area?
David: I moved to DC in 2017 from NYC where I was working for Camp Ramah because I wanted to get involved in politics. I majored in America Studies in college and after the 2016 election, I felt like it was the right time for me to make a career shift towards politics. So I moved to DC without a job, friends, or anywhere to live. I started living with my aunt and uncle in Rockville while I interned for Senator Maggie Hassan. I was just so excited to be a part of the DC world.
Allie: Do you still work on the Hill?
David: No, after my Hill internship, I started working in Baltimore on the campaign of someone running for Maryland state senate. This experience helped me learn what it means to organize and what politics are all about.
Allie: Did you live in Baltimore or DC during this time?
David: Sort of both. I was living in Dupont Circle, but also had free housing in Baltimore as part of the campaign. I worked seven days a week for the campaign, but would try to come back to DC for Shabbat. I’d go to Shir Delight at Adas Israel or do something to stay connected to DC’s Jewish community. Then, I’d go back to Baltimore on Saturday morning.
Allie: What motivated you to make that big schlep each week to celebrate Shabbat in DC?
David: Since I didn’t have any friends when I first came to DC, I would go to Sixth & I, Adas Israel, and Gather happy hours. Then, I had a coffee meeting with Jackie Zais and that sort of set the stage for my whole DC Jewish involvement. I’ve grown to really love DC’s Jewish community. People are so open to making friends, and I feel very connected to the local Jewish institutions that are doing great programming for young people.
Allie: Has being involved in Jewish community life always been important to you?
David: Yeah. I went to Jewish day school, in college was in a joint program with Columbia and the Jewish Theological Seminary, I was on my college’s Hillel board, and then worked in Jewish nonprofit world right after graduating. Actually, when I moved to DC, that was the first time I was living somewhere and not working for a Jewish organization or attending a Jewish school – so being connected became even more important than ever.
Allie: I hear you also had a stint working for Facebook. How did you wind up going from the political campaign world to Facebook?
David: I was working in Facebook’s public policy division and a lot of people in that division come from the political world. Specifically, I was part of the team that helps craft policies, resources, and partnerships to make sure Facebook is a safe place to be online. It was an amazing place to work, and I’m proud of the work Facebook does – despite all the controversy.
Allie: You’re now at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, right? What led you there?
David: Yup! I met with Federation’s CEO Gil Preuss and he was telling me about the great work they’re doing in Northern Virginia. According to a recent study, NoVA is the largest segment of the Jewish community in the DMV by population – 41% of Jews in the DMV are in NoVA. So there is a lot Federation can be doing to invest in and bolster the Jewish community there. I was brought on to help work on that effort, in addition to a bunch of other things across Community and Leadership Development. I live in Arlington now, and that’s become my home and community. I care very deeply about growing it. I like working back in the Jewish world, I feel very much at home there.
Allie: Imagine that social distancing is over, the restaurants and museums are all open, and you have a totally free day! Walk me through your dream day in DC/NoVA.
David: It’s a pretty cliché day, but I still love playing DC tourist. It would start with coffee at Northside Social. Then, I’d take the Orange Line into DC and go to a Smithsonian. I love the Museum of American History, the African American History Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery. The history buff in me also highly recommends going to the National Archives – I don’t think there’s anything cooler than seeing the Constitution and the Declaration up close! Then, I’d go to my old stomping grounds in Dupont and spend too much money at Kramer Books. I would love to take a long walk from The Lincoln Memorial to the MLK Memorial to the FDR Memorial to the Jefferson Memorial. Especially in the spring, that walk is amazing and beautiful. If it’s a Monday night, I’d go with friends to Bier Baron for their free amateur stand-up comedy show, which is sometimes hilarious, sometimes terrible, and always entertaining.
Allie: What’s your favorite Passover food?
David: I’ve always hated horseradish, but five years ago, I decided to try horseradish and I’m obsessed with it. Both the white and purple kind. I could eat it on matzah all year.
Allie: What’s one thing you’re doing to stay mentally healthy during this time of coronavirus?
David: Lots of FaceTiming with friends! Even when we can’t see each other physically it’s still so important to maintain our social connections.
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